Things That Matter

This App Can Tell You The Indigenous History Of The Land You Live On

Wondering about the Indigenous heritage of your city, your neighborhood or even your street? Well, there’s an app for that. Native Land, a Canadian nonprofit, has mapped Indigenous territories across North America, South America, and parts of Europe and Asia. 

For all the selfish and banal uses of social media out there, sometimes developers use the geolocative capabilities of smartphones to make the world a more inclusive place.

This app looks at the history of a place and reveals how it was originally organized by the traditional owners of the land before processes of colonization and dispossession reshaped the maps of what is now known as the Americas. This app is digitizing Indigenous history, so next time you step on indigenous land you can quietly acknowledge it. 

Native Land is the app to better understand the extent of Indigenous communities around the world.

Whose land are you on? Start with a visit to native-land.ca. Native Land is both a website and an app that seeks to map Indigenous languages, treaties, and territories across Turtle Island. You might type in New York, New York, for example, and find that the five boroughs are actually traditional Lenape and Haudenosaunee territory.

On the website and in the app, you can enter the ZIP code or Canadian or American name for any town. The interactive map will zoom in on your inquiry, color-code it, and pull up data on the area’s Indigenous history, original language, and tribal ties.

The project is run by Victor Temprano out of British Columbia, Canada. A self-described “settler,” he said that the idea came to him while driving near his home—traditional Squamish territory. He saw many signs in the English language with the Squamish original place names indicated in parentheses underneath. He thought to himself, “Why isn’t the English in brackets?”

As a ongoing project, the app clearly states that: “This map does not represent or intend to represent official or legal boundaries of any Indigenous nations. To learn about definitive boundaries, contact the nations in question. Also, this map is not perfect — it is a work in progress with tons of contributions from the community. Please send us fixes if you find errors”.

Ready to find out more about the place that you call home? Click here

Remember: maps are only political and not set on stone, so the map you know was drawn by colonial powers.

Credit: Native Land

Contrary to what we might believe, maps are hardly set in stone. In fact, how a territory is named and where boundaries sit is evidence of historical processes through which lands are taken.

Just look at this map of North America and think about all the blood that has been shed by the original owners of the land just so we can identify only three countries today. There were hundreds of discreet ethnic groups in Canada, Mexico and the United States before the European superpowers of Britain, France and Spain landed and created havoc. 

But the past is past, right? So why should we care? Well, we should care, a lot, particularly in today’s political climate. Let’s take this map of the California area as an example.

Credit: Native Land

So why is becoming familiar with the indigenous past of place important? Because it tells us that the borders that exist today are practically a human invention rather than something set in stone, and that unless you have Indigenous heritage, we are all guests.

California, for example, was populated by a wide variety of peoples who were conquered by the Spanish or assimilated into mestizo culture through religion and language. So when white supremacists get all “America for the Americans” on Brown folk, they should be reminded that the land is and has always been Indigenous.

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Mexico City Could Soon Change Its Name To Better Embrace Its Indigenous Identity

Things That Matter

Mexico City Could Soon Change Its Name To Better Embrace Its Indigenous Identity

PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images

Mexico City is the oldest surviving capital city in all of the Americas. It also is one of only two that actually served as capitals of their Indigenous communities – the other being Quito, Ecuador. But much of that incredible history is washed over in history books, tourism advertisements, and the everyday hustle and bustle of a city of 21 million people.

Recently, city residents voted on a non-binding resolution that could see the city’s name changed back to it’s pre-Hispanic origin to help shine a light on its rich Indigenous history.

Mexico City could soon be renamed in honor of its pre-Hispanic identity.

A recent poll shows that 54% of chilangos (as residents of Mexico City are called) are in favor of changing the city’s official name from Ciudad de México to México-Tenochtitlán. In contrast, 42% of respondents said they didn’t support a name change while 4% said they they didn’t know.

Conducted earlier this month as Mexico City gears up to mark the 500th anniversary of the fall of the Aztec empire capital with a series of cultural events, the poll also asked respondents if they identified more as Mexicas, as Aztec people were also known, Spanish or mestizo (mixed indigenous and Spanish blood).

Mestizo was the most popular response, with 55% of respondents saying they identified as such while 37% saw themselves more as Mexicas. Only 4% identified as Spaniards and the same percentage said they didn’t know with whom they identified most.

The poll also touched on the city’s history.

The ancient city of Tenochtitlán.

The same poll also asked people if they thought that the 500th anniversary of the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlán by Spanish conquistadoresshould be commemorated or forgotten, 80% chose the former option while just 16% opted for the latter.

Three-quarters of respondents said they preferred areas of the the capital where colonial-era architecture predominates, such as the historic center, while 24% said that they favored zones with modern architecture.

There are also numerous examples of pre-Hispanic architecture in Mexico City including the Templo Mayor, Tlatelolco and Cuicuilco archaeological sites.

Tenochtitlán was one of the world’s most advanced cities when the Spanish arrived.

Tenochtitlán, which means “place where prickly pears abound” in Náhuatl, was founded by the Mexica people in 1325 on an island located on Lake Texcoco. The legend goes that they decided to build a city on the island because they saw the omen they were seeking: an eagle devouring a snake while perched on a nopal.

At its peak, it was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas. It subsequently became a cabecera of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Today, the ruins of Tenochtitlán are in the historic center of the Mexican capital. The World Heritage Site of Xochimilco contains what remains of the geography (water, boats, floating gardens) of the Mexica capital.

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After 17 Seasons “Grey’s Anatomy” Has Finally Cast Its First Indigenous Doctor

Entertainment

After 17 Seasons “Grey’s Anatomy” Has Finally Cast Its First Indigenous Doctor

Courtesy of ABC

Just when you thought “Grey’s Anatomy” had literally done every storyline in the book, they turn around and surprise you. And this time, “Grey”‘s is bringing some good news.

Now, in 2021, after 17 seasons, “Grey’s Anatomy” is finally featuring its first indigenous doctor, Dr. James Chee, played by actor Robert I Mesa.

Robert I Mesa is an actor of Navajo and Soboba descent. According to an online biography, Mesa is self-taught photographer, filmmaker and actor working in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Mesa took to Instagram to celebrate the good news about being the first indigenous doctor on “Grey’s”.

“I’m so excited and honored to be the first indigenous doctor on Grey’s Anatomy,” he wrote. “James Chee will be back on April 15, so be sure to tune in…Thank you so much To Grey’s Anatomy! I know this is going to mean so much to my indigenous peoples.” He ended the caption with “it’s a good day to be indigenous”

Although now Mesa is now on one of the biggest shows on TV, he is still a relative newcomer to showbiz and “Grey’s” will be his first major role after appearing on episode three of this season.

“Grey’s Anatomy” has always prided itself in hiring diverse actors to fill its cast.

In fact, when “Grey’s” creator Shonda Rhimes first created the show in 20–, she instructed her casting director to bring in actors of all races to audition. “The script was written with no character descriptions, no clue as to what anyone should look like,” she told Oprah in 2006.

“We read every color actor for every single part. My goal was simply to cast the best actors. I was lucky because the network said, ‘Go for it.'”

Those directions led to one of the most culturally and racially diverse casts in TV history. And it also changed the television landscape forever.

“When they had me come in to read for the role of chief of surgery, I hadn’t seen an African American in that kind of role before,” James Pickens Jr, who plays Dr. Richard Webber, said to The Hollywood Reporter.

He continued: “Shonda always wanted to make sure that the show impacted the landscape in a way that we hadn’t seen before on TV. I like to think that Grey’s had a big part in how the industry casts shows.”

“Grey’s Anatomy” has paved the way for other racially-diverse Shondaland shows like “How to Get Away With Murder”, “Scandal”, “Station 19”, and most recently, “Bridgerton.”

We’re glad that an iconic television staple like “Grey’s Anatomy” is finally expanding its diverse cast to include its first indigenous doctor.

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